This speech is 39 years old. It  was given by Jermy Bullmore, CD at JWT London to Kraft executives. It’s as relevant as ever:

“Language itself is never completely explicit. Words have suggestive, evocative powers; but at the same time they are merely stepping-stones for thought. The artist rules his subjects by turning them into accomplices.

And that seems to me as good as a definition of the role of the creative man in advertising as I’ve ever read. We have to try to rule our subjects by turning them into accomplices; because, if they aren’t accomplices, they may well turn out to be enemies.

Let me now summarize where I think I’ve got to so far, before going on to illustrate the thesis with examples of advertising.

– Many people – our consumers – find much advertising irritating: and if anything, this trend is on the increaser. Some of this irritation is undoubtedly caused by the weight of advertising, by the intensity of advertising, by repetition and by the irrelevance of certain groups of products to certain groups of people. (…)

– But some, at least, of this irritation springs from advertisements which people describe as being an “insult to their intelligence”.

– What this particular phrase seems to mean is not simply talking down to people, or hectoring people. It means that the ‘sender’ has an inadequate understanding of the communication process in general and the role of the receiver in particular.

– The receiver is not passive: he is active. He will contribute, complete, modify, reject, select or repudiate: whether we like it or not. He doesn’t absorb messages: he responds to stimuli. He draws his own conclusions.

– If we attempt to deny him the chance to contribute, we run the risk not only of failing to achieve satisfactory communication, but of irritating him a great deal into the bargain.”

Isn’t it fascinating to see that we haven’t made that much progress in almost 40 years? The majority of advertisers are still yelling. The fragmentation of communication channels should lead to a golden age of storytelling. Let’s hope so.

Do yourself and read the whole speech. It’s fantastic.

Unless you advertise this abomination